Posted by: sulya | 9 December 2010

Something Nice About Winter

I asked the kids what I should write about because I have two posts to write today to make up for yesterday’s failure to produce and the evil creative little munchkins told me I should write something nice about winter, with a sub-category of “something about a snow fort.”

So.  Here goes.

My mother hates winter more than I do.  I mean, I could try to put it into words but forces from darker places than I can even imagine would smite me for trying to articulate her loathing.  That’s how bad it is.

Didn’t matter though.  Not the day we made our fantastic fort, anyway.

Montreal gets lots of heavy wet building/packing snow.  Some winters it also gets icy rain.  In a primo winter, the icy rain will be followed by more packing snow and then more ice and then more snow… You get the drift.  The long and the short of it is that if you use your hands carefully, you can cut out bricks of packed snow with ice-covered sides and you can build with them.

And that’s what we did.

It was a big, round enclosure with a pretty high wall and a tunnel we dug for an entrance.

It was amazing and probably the most lasting and happy memory I have of winter.

We must have been out there for hours and I don’t remember it being particularly warm so we must have been cold but we stayed out there – my MOM stayed out there – until it was done.

Our house was right across the street from the little park so even once we were back inside, I could look out the living room window and try to see the white on white, with white falling all around it, of our fort.  I am pretty sure it lasted a little while because I remember going and playing in it with friends.  Its proximity to a high school means someone probably wrecked it eventually – a fact I have blocked from my memory – but I feel like it lasted longer than one might expect because it was just that damn cool and anyone who saw it just knew it.

You just don’t mess with that kind of cool.

Can’t really do forts like that here, though the kid and I have made the occasional snowman…

But, anyway.  If a woman whose hatred for winter is so deep and dark that it cannot and must not be spoken for fear of otherworldly reprisal could stay out with her little girl for hours and build a fort, and play in the fort, and crawl in and out of a cold snowy tunnel to and from the fort…  Then, clearly, I have something nice to say about winter.

(And my mommy.  Thank you, by the way, and especially if I didn’t thank you at the time.  It was an amazing fort.)



Posted by: sulya | 9 December 2010

A Rest by a Cozy Fire

Hello to all,

While it might seem counter-intuitive to have warm, cozy fire roaring away in an octopus’ watery nook, it’s happening so please enjoy the nonsensical whimsy.  It’s all I have to give tonight people.  I’ve spent literally ALL DAY (from 8:47am to 12:04am) writing a nearly 4000 word (supposed to be 3000) paper about healing and a pedagogy of creating/sharing.  If you have any interest in reading that then I would definitely have more words to share with you so, you know, drop me a line (octopusinresidence-at-gmail-dot-com).  If not, you are probably wise as I have not edited it at ALL yet.

As an aside, would anyone like to compile my bibliography for me?  And by compile, I mean literally get all the articles together from where they are spread all over the table and floor and put them in a pile…


Me go bed-bye now with promises of something more substantial tomorrow… Or Friday… I hand the paper in Friday and have no more school until January…

The Octopus In Residence



Posted by: sulya | 7 December 2010

Mario vs Optimus (vs Cynicism vs Love)

So, the kidlet is mad crazy for Transformers.  He is also mad crazy for Super Mario (Wii and all the old ones you can play through emulators on a PC).  We make our own transformers and Mario characters out of Lego, out of Magnetix.  He and his father pretend to be in the video game when they are at the park.  We build Mario water worlds when he is in the bath…  He is convinced that he will love them forever and for some reason I believe both my ex and I have been telling him, “Well, you might not love them forever.  You grow.  You change.  Your interests change.”

Just tonight, he was reaffirming his undying love in a half hour monologue full of every name of every Transformer known to man or beast and I responded with, “Well, you used to love Cars cars and Thomas the Train didn’t you?”  To which he replied with a pause and a note of serious consideration, “I’ve grown out of them…  and maybe one day I’ll grow out of Transformers and of Mario.”

And something in me snapped.  His agreeing with me was horrible.  Horrifying.  Why would I go out of my way to tell him that love dies?  Why would I do that?  What am I worried about?  That he will grow to be fickle without knowing it and it will hurt people around him?  That he might be blind to love when it flames out, stick around to blow smoke when he should be movin’ on?

Wouldn’t the child of separate/divorced parents be perfectly (painfully?) aware, even if they were young when it happened, that love dies?

And, given there are two new people in his life on a daily basis in both his homes, wouldn’t it also behoove all of us to nurture the possibility of longtime love?  Of toys?  Of people?

Is this knee-jerk need to tell him that he might not love something  forever born simply of the fact that we know that when you’re older, and love dies, it usually hurts like &@$% and we want him to be prepared?  As if there is any sort of preparation for the end of love.  As if it is ever as simple and virtually painless as growing beyond an interest in a toy…

He might love Transformers forever.  He might love Mario forever.  Hell, I still love Mario and it was the boyfriend who brought the old emulator games into the house and entranced the kid in the first place.  Why would they even have a Mario game for the Wii if he was not still beloved by many who knew him in the way-back?

Maybe Thomas and Cars cars (i.e. the toy cars from the Pixar movie) just don’t have the staying power?  Perhaps they are just not a good fit for the boyo’s mind and imagination?  Perhaps that’s why they’ve fallen out of his favour?  Perhaps some cynical kid or grown-up told him that his Cars cars and his train tracks and his trains were for little kids not boys?  I dunno’, I know my boyfriend’s 10 year-old  loves to play with the train track, can do so for hours so obviously one man’s coal is another man’s diamond and perhaps that’s the way it’s supposed to be…

So help me, was I that cynical adult making rules I shouldn’t have about how old he is and his love for his toys?  As if taking pleasure, finding joy – as if love itself – can ever be defined by how old you are…

Back in the moment, I babbled…

“Well, you might not grow out of Transformers, I know Dads who collect them still, baby. You might still love Mario too. You never know.  That’s the fun part of growing up.  Sometimes you only like something for a little while but sometimes you try new things and  you still love them even when you’re older.”

And because he wanted to continue talking incessantly – and with the speed and clarity of an auctioneer – about Transformers, he said, “Well I am definitely going to love Transformers and Mario when I’m older.  For real, Mommy.  For real.”

And I said, “Good.” And then tried desperately to tune him out as I finished the drive home because sadly and with all that I am I can say that I – ersatz grown-up that I am – do NOT love Transformers…




Original Images Borrowed from HERE and HERE

Posted by: sulya | 6 December 2010

And So…

In a state of acute femaleness the other day, I wound up with a hot water bottle between bent knees and abdomen on my kitchen floor.  My head was on the laminate, my neck twisted to the right.  I was worried the hot water bottle might burst from the pressure of my entire torso squishing it to my bent legs, the tops of my thighs.  But it was holding.  I was holding but still miserable.  Waiting for the heat to kick in, waiting for the ibuprofen to kick in.

And that’s when I saw it.

Him.  That’s when I saw him.

The one, yellow gummy bear lying just under the stove drawer, on his side, facing me.

Similarly abject.  Similarly alone and waiting, though for what I cannot say.

“You have not been writing.”  He said, “you are always crazier when you are not writing.  You know this.”

“What makes you think I’m crazy, Bear?”

“You are hugging a water bottle with cow-infested fleece cover and curled up on this filthy disgusting floor.  Seems crazy to me.  I’m only here because someone dropped me.”

It seemed a fair point.  And the floor had certainly seen better days.  The bear was keeping company with popcorn seeds, cat kibble, cat fur in grease-bound kitchen’y clumps…

“I couldn’t make it to the sofa, Bear.”

“Well, your computer is right over there.  Your journal is right over there.  You could make it there couldn’t you?”

With characteristic defensiveness, I couldn’t help thinking it was none of the bear’s damn business.  I’ve been reading a helluva’ lotta’ theory.  I’ve been writing reader responses and papers and doing “testimonial presentations” which basically involved diagnosing the entirety of North America with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  I’ve been teaching the babies, the toddlers, the preschoolers and working at the foundations of a new relationship which is rich and complicated, frustrating and rewarding…  I am mother to an increasingly interesting 5 year-old…  Evil step-mother in training to three other children… I’ve been trying not to completely neglect every friend I have…  I mean for heaven’s sake… There is only so much of me…

“There is always more of you when you write,” said the bear, revealing what I have always believed but have never before proven about gummy bear telepathy…

“Fine, Bear.  Fine.  I’ve been thinking that I will join Holidailies.”

“That would be a good place to start,” he said.  His dusty yellow translucence seemed to luminesce.  A spirit departed.  The ibuprofen kicked in.

And I wound up here.



Posted by: sulya | 5 October 2010

We Never Did that in a While Yet Now Did We Mommy?

Bless the grammar of the young.

Unhampered by time or tense there is pure joy for me every time his little mouth inside his still somewhat baby-rounded cheeks makes this marvelous mess of our shared language…

We never had cookies in a while yet now did we Mommy?
We never saw “sign” George in a while yet now did we Mommy?
But we haven’t had a play date in a while yet now Mommy!

I should maybe correct him. But I won’t.
Out of love of his innocence and out of a love of language, I won’t.
I just won’t.

I also taught him to say, “May I have the _______.” Instead of “Can I have the _______.” And this has translated, within the confines of his delicious mind, into:

May you get my coat for me Mommy?
May you please give me my vegetables now Mommy?
May you record Dinosaur Train Mommy?

I may, little man, I may.

I may and I shall and I have and I will continue to do so for as long as you’ll let me.


Posted by: sulya | 26 September 2010

All The Leaves Are Yellow And the Sky is Grey

It is Fall now and if indeed you still care, you may wonder where – exactly – I have been:

in school (two weeks into my second course and not quite drowning…)

in the recurring presence of 4 children only one of whom I brought into this world but over each of whom I have some influence and for whom I have warmly increasing responsibility (as much as they will let me have…)

in love

in bed

in a farmhouse

in a field listening to acres of wheat and barley catch and release the wind

at a computer wrestling with ideas for which I may actually be ready

with family on a road trip that included a lightening-induced blackout in an already dark room peopled entirely with carnivorous dinosaurs

with friends

on my new bike with its big seat and arched handlebars and my spine straight against the same wind that once knew the wheat and the barley

in a surgical theatre with pictures of animals and cartoon characters on its walls

up against the feeling that in order to keep writing i had to keep posting photos all the time and doing things with as much fullness as i often did before but that is not always possible.

i am less sane without writing at the most calm of times and these have not been calm times.

Good times. Amazing times.

But not calm.

And I make no promises about anything in this second and more sober of recent returns….

I just wanted to let you know where I’d been.

I wanted to let you know where I’d been and make sure you knew that I would not have been able to get here without you.

Love & Kisses
The Octopus in Residence

Posted by: sulya | 25 September 2010

I Am \drunk

once upon a time, as all good stories begin, there were two princesses with two large bottles glasses of wine. they had been shamelessly neglecting their  blogs for so long that there was atrophy of things we shall not name.

The princesses were enjoying a rather ribald night of confessions (pants were nearly removed), and much laughter ensued.  The fact the ” Moonstruck” happened to appear on basic cable did not hurt anything.

typos are inevitable and expected and boyfriends compare to nic cage favourably.  (who knew?)

Half a block is a loing way to stumble.  (Loing.,  Is that longing for loin?) (This may not be funny in the morning) But the princesses are happy to be united in drunkeness, both real and metaphorical.

Both princesses decided to be3lieve in princes.  Not guardedly, but whoileheartedly.

And to believe in each other, at long last.


(simulposted HERE)

Posted by: sulya | 30 July 2010


There was this point during my long frightening labour when I finally had medical support and pain relief and then they wanted to take the pain relief away.  They wanted to take it away so I would be able to feel everything properly and push my baby out.

I hedged and took advantage of other people’s assumptions, though, so that I still had a fair amount of epidural in me when it came time to push.  I don’t remember being in pain at all.  Just the pressure of it and then he was in my arms.  He looked beat up but he was small, had all his fingers and toes, and it only took 20 minutes and I did it better than I would have if they’d taken away the pain relief because terror had set in at just the idea of being in pain again.  Real terror and terror, in my opinion, does not typically make things better.

And I found this memory again today because I found myself afraid, again, about the idea of pain returning.

I have a man who loves me and takes care of me now in a way I can recognize and feel and which I am allowed to return.  I have embraced his kids and he has embraced my little guy.  I have begun an educational journey that is already so inspiring, so ripe and challenging.  I recently got one of my friends back, too.  Two of them in fact.  One from long ago and one from more recently.  I had missed them both terribly.

My cup, in short, runneth over.

And, I can’t go back.

I didn’t even realize how much pain I had been in during my labour until it was gone and my body could shudder and quietly sigh into relief.

I complained and whined about it on this blog a lot, but I truly didn’t realize – couldn’t have known – how wrong, how tired, how egregiously hard everything was until it stopped being that way and started to be a way entirely and completely and magically better.

I wasn’t sure I was strong enough to handle the return of pain during my labour.

And I am struck, this morning, with the full force of one overwhelmed by newness, that I am afraid I will not be strong enough to handle it if I lose these new things in my life, these returns of things old and valued.  I am afraid I will screw it up or someone else will and I will wind up back where I started which, as I’ve already said and this blog evidences, was hard then and would be even harder now.  Unbearable.

I am literally afraid I would not be able to bear it.

It’s a pretty pedestrian fear really and I will not let it win but it’s the scope of it which has changed and caught my attention.  It’s deepened. The gap between then and now is so wide.  I am more afraid because I have more information but I cannot allow myself to turn that into its own “fear of knowing” can I?

I tell the parents of the kids I teach over and over that children learn from strong contrasts.

As it turns out, I guess, grown-ups are really no different.

Posted by: sulya | 23 June 2010

Praise Be for Steel Wool

Every once in a while there is tremendous satisfaction found in something small that actually gets accomplished.  In high school it was the maudlin and profoundly pleasurable tendency to completely black out just one page in my most boring text books with a giant indelible marker and then with a gold paint pen write something like, “This is your future,”  on top of the blackness.

The smooth even lines of blackness filling the page until there was nothing left of, say, page 156 of “Geographie du Quebec et du Canada” but the perfect symbolic representation of its effect on my very being and soul…

Oh yeah.  It was like that.

A day or so ago, however, after I made a huge birthday meal for the man friend (Roast Beef with a fresh sage, garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil and a little bit of butter rub, roasted over top of pearl onions, served with slow roasted – 3hrs – Greek lemon potatoes, green and yellow beans and followed by homemade – completely from scratch I might add – chocolate buttercream cupcakes) I realized that I actually had steel wool in the house and the roasting tin got scrubbed of two years of stubborn burnt spots.  Two years worth.


I’m not much of a clean freak as most who know me will attest to, but the satisfaction of that pan going back to looking basically new just because of a simple cleaning utensil that I had just never had in the house before was one of those moments that make me feel as though other things might actually be as simple, like it all doesn’t have to be so mercilessly complicated all the damn time…

Like, for example, how impossible everything with my amazing son always is.  Impossible to have him for longer than usual because he drives me crazy and pushes every boundary, tests every limit.  Impossible to drop him back off at his fathers after 2.5 weeks because he is such an amazing, creative, intense, loving and smart little man and missing him is like being burned with hot oil.

Not everything has to be like that.

Sometimes you can satisfyingly cover up the thing that annoys you until you can’t see it anymore and genuinely move on; my university education and subsequent educational experiences were in no way harmed by my minimal acts of high school text book vandalism.  Sometimes you have the right tool to-hand and you can scrub away mess easily and quickly and smile and genuinely move on to whatever mess comes next…  Some things can be and are truly lingeringly simple.

Small things usually.  Silly things perhaps.

But I can and should do this more.  Perhaps we all should?  Stand closer not farther away.  Breathe more deeply, more slowly.  Finish something small.

Posted by: sulya | 8 June 2010

I Did It Again

I went looking for something I had purchased at a store.  On sale.  Before I even needed to replace it because it is something I use often enough to warrant purchasing it on sale and in advance.  I went looking for it on the counter in the kitchen where I last remember seeing it.  I went looking for it in drawers in the kitchen where it certainly didn’t belong but where I could picture myself putting it in a fit of kitchen-cleaning madness…

It wasn’t there.  It wasn’t anywhere that I could see.  I muttered the usual kindnesses at myself:

You idiot.  Great.  Lost a seven dollar bottle of eye make-up remover somewhere in your own damn house.  Stupid.  Why can’t you just put things where they belong?  Why can’t you just keep this place tidier and do things right?  It’s not like you’re made of money there Rockefeller.  Fuck.  Stupid.  Idiot.

I was leaving the house.  I needed to brush my teeth.  I went to the bathroom and opened a cupboard to look for something else and there it was.  The bottle.  Right where it should be.  I put it there.

Me.  The idiot.  The stupid moron who never puts anything where it belongs.

And I remembered that I’ve done this a lot over the years.  I remembered that I’ve done this several times a year since I was a child probably only in the last decade or so each incident has proven over and over that it would behoove me to look for the missing object where it “should” go because it is very likely that that is exactly where I have put it.

I am not, in short,  an idiot.

I am not a moron.

I am not stupid.

But I forget this.  A lot it would seem.  I forget this a lot…

So I might be called forgetful and self-abusive I suppose?  And this might, in fact, make me stupid but that is clearly not the point of this exercise… Ceasing to call myself names and blame myself for offences I have not actually committed is the name of this game.

Because I did it again.

And I am tired of it.

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